Land Trust Preserves Historic Mildred Huie Museum Property
The St. Simons Land Trust is pleased to announce the acquisition of the historic Mildred Huie Museum and surrounding property on Frederica Road. The property will be maintained as a public green space, serving as a buffer to commercial encroachment along the Frederica corridor.
“Because of the historic and cultural significance of this property, it is very important to protect it from high-density development or commercial creep,” said David Pope, executive director of the Land Trust. “We’re dedicating the greenspace to Mildred Huie and her daughter, Millie Wilcox, because of their many contributions to the artistic and cultural life on St. Simons Island.”
“I’m just absolutely thrilled,” said Ms. Wilcox. “My mother would be so happy.”
Located at 1819 Frederica Rd., just north of the Frederica-Demere roundabout, the land was purchased by Mildred Weigle Nix Huie and her husband, Carl Huie, in the late 1960s. Until her death in 2000, the location served as the home and studio of Mrs. Huie, a renowned impressionist artist and historian, whose paintings of St. Simons remain an integral part of the island’s cultural fabric.
Mrs. Huie’s daughter, Millie Wilcox, an accomplished artist like her mother, maintained the former family home as a museum for more than a decade following her mother’s death. The unique-to-the-island Mediterranean-style home was designed by noted architect Fred Stroberg in 1928. Much like today, there were magnificent wisteria-draped Live Oaks and other native plants throughout the property.
Robert Driggers, a commercial real estate broker, who participated in the acquisition, said, “This property has four lots and could have been re-developed into four houses. It’s nice that we can avoid that increase in density to have a protected park in this part of the Frederica corridor. This was a good acquisition by the Land Trust.”
When asked about plans for the museum itself, Pope said, “We can’t pledge to maintain the building for perpetuity, but we will maintain the original structure for the foreseeable future. We’re having an architect and contractor look at it for possible future uses. Meanwhile, we plan to take down the rental houses and other structures that are on the site, add landscaping, walking trails, and seating, and open the park to the public.”
The Mildred Huie Museum is the first site acquired by the Land Trust since the organization announced a $4 million challenge grant from the Anschutz Foundation last month.
The Anschutz Foundation was established by Philip F. Anschutz for the purpose of supporting a broad range of charitable initiatives. “The Anschutz family, who owns the Sea Island Company, is committed to the long-term future of St. Simons Island and Sea Island,” said Scott Steilen, President and CEO of Sea Island Company. The total $4 million grant, the first half of which has been received by the Land Trust, “is a direct result of the Foundation’s intention to preserve the character and quality of life of these very special islands,” added Steilen. “We are encouraged by the Land Trust’s comprehensive land-preservation strategy and look forward to the community joining us in this critical preservation effort.”
The remaining $2 million from the Anschutz Foundation will be awarded after the Land Trust has raised a total of $4 million from additional sources.
The Land Trust currently has approximately 1,000 acres under conservation protection on St. Simons Island, with a goal of protecting 2,000 acres island-wide. The Anschutz gift will have an enormous impact on accomplishing that goal of protecting and preserving an estimated 20% of the island.
“We’re going to do everything we can to save as many historically, culturally, and environmentally significant properties as possible,” Pope said. “Large, undeveloped properties are important, of course, because conservation of those properties keeps additional roof tops off the island and prevents additional stress on our infrastructure. However, there are also smaller properties that are highly valued by the island residents. We value them, too, and will try to protect the ones that have the highest positive impact on the island.”
Demolition of some of the existing structures on the Huie property will begin this week. Once restoration of the property is complete, the park will be dedicated by the St. Simons Land Trust to Mildred Huie and Millie Wilcox, both remarkable and talented women who have contributed to the artistic and cultural legacy of St. Simons. “The park will serve as an ongoing testament to their contribution to the art and life of this island,” added Pope.